A high school friend of mine...
...(you know who you are!)...saw a photo I posted on Facebook a few days ago and said This reminds me of Jessie .. beautiful, beaten, broken :( .
Here's the photo:
There are a few things I find interesting about her observation. One, Jessie was on her mind while she scrolled through Facebook in her leisure time. Two, I've been taking a few of these kinds of pics lately (so what does this say about me?). And three, what is it about Jessie Wheeler that leaves a lingering effect on people? As my friend added, It's like she is my friend that I have this unhealthy loyalty to...and who doesn't have a friend like that? One who is a train wreck and you know it - but you can't help yourself...you are her biggest fan, her biggest critic, you could kick her arse and dry her tears...she exhausts you, but you can't and will never give up on her...
As more and more readers discover the Drifters series, many are reaching out to me. It's quite humbling, and I find myself trying to figure out what it is that makes Jessie resonate with folks. My high school friend nailed it. She's battered and broken, yet she's got this inner beauty that comes forward in her music and in her way of seeing the world and the people in it, that gives her the strength and courage to go on.
I struggled a little last week - I feel a bit lost now that the Drifters series is done. I spent most of the summer writing new drafts (yes, plural - takes twelve drafts to get to the first real draft) of my screenplay, formerly Atlantic Blue and currently known as Still the Water. I enjoyed writing the story, but now it's all down to business, which is much less fun than writing - do I sell this thing? (My L.A. mentor says yes, get it into the marketplace). So I wrote some query letters and had some interest right away, but was then told by one producer that my film is a six million dollar film and as an unknown SELF-PUBLISHED writer with no meaningful awards, I am not bankable at that level. (I was a Finalist in the 2011 Writing Atlantic Writing Awards for unpublished manuscripts, but I guess that is small potatoes, ha ha!)
That's fair, it's totally fair, and I admired her honesty. But I guess this is where the Jessie in me comes in. I've been struggling for a lot of years to find my real place in this world (aren't we all?) and comments like these (which, let's face it, feel like defeat) make me feel a little smaller, a little more beaten, a lot more battered. But - back to Jessie - I have this pull to keep going. To regroup, to say, okay, so it seems like the odds are against me, so how do I turn this around and make it work? And I think this is a lesson for all of us. Many of us are too quick to throw in the towel on our dreams and on our hopes, or maybe even in relationships with lovers, with family, with friends. Filmmaking is a tough world - how do you find money to shoot something when the world seems bleak and at this point you don't even know when you'll see your son again because flights to Vancouver aren't cheap? Why does the world have to revolve around money, anyway? I get such joy from writing...but writing is fantasy, not reality. Filmmaking is fantasy. Some would say Get your head out of the clouds! Get a real job!
It's so easy to have people tell you that you can't do something. This film needs six million dollars in order for it to happen...I disagree. I live on P.E.I. where there is no media incentive to help cut costs, but where there is interest from local MLAs and even our Mayor to see this film happen here. Where there is a quick Sure, you can shoot in my rink, and I won't charge you, and a We can get you some office space at no charge, and a I'd be happy to help (from a local fisherman). Steve says there are tons of old fishing boats we can sink (oops, spoiler alert), and guys that would likely haul it (and remove it again from its resting place) for free. There are actors looking for work and, sadly, even N.S. crew who would likely come over and help since their province has messed their industry up rather royally, I don't mind saying. Sure, crew might have to accept being billeted, but Summerside's good for that - our townsfolk always jump in and help out when they are needed. I could likely even find volunteers to help with the driving, or the food-making, you name it. Retired folks, for instance, looking for something to do for a few weeks in the winter. (Let me add that I would pay those who make their living in the industry - crew, for instance. I would pay whomever I could - but I know there are some folks not in need of funds who would help out if needed as well, in order to see this film get made in Summerside, to give us a little economic boost and a lot of fun, and something else to be proud of).
My point is, sure, my film could be a six million dollar film. It could be a twenty million dollar film. Or it could be a 2 million dollar film. Could it be less than that and still look good? Heck, yeah. I can tell a story. I can be resourceful. And I feel most like myself when I am on a film set in jeans and a T-shirt, and brown cowboy boots, ha ha! (Gotta focus on Jessie's resilience, might as well borrow her boots!). What I can't be is someone who lies down and doesn't try something just because someone tells me I can't.
This producer gal (who I really liked, truly, she was someone I know I can work with if I ever get the opportunity) ended the conversation by saying I hope I didn't discourage you. She did, for an hour. But I was off to the shore to spend the rest of the day with Steve and I didn't want to bum him out because I was bummed out, so I rallied. (Thank you, Jessie). So what I also can't be is someone who gets defensive and upset if the world doesn't always go my way. Instead, I choose to take Jessie's attitude (or maybe she has mine?) which is beat me and batter me, but I will remain beautiful. To others and, especially, to myself.
A little music goes a long way when one is having a hard day. This guitar was taking a rest at Twin Shores' Mussels and Music last Saturday, and I was feeling wonderful, singing along to Sweet Caroline (Bamp bamp bamp!!!) as loud as everyone else despite the gnarly hit to my soul earlier in the day. I've since rebounded and am thinking again about making this film myself. I suppose it's partly because I'm afraid other producers might also not see me as a bankable entity, despite the fact that readers are constantly telling me the Drifters series is their favorite series ever. (Not bragging, I swear, although my self-published little ego needs that bit of a pump up once in a while)!
We're all broken and battered in one way or another. Do my challenges compare to those of the Syrian refugees? No. Let's keep things in perspective here. Thankfully what gets me down is not the same as what Jessie's up against, either, unless you count on a metaphorical 'single parent broke seemingly forever' kind of thing.
My message to you today is to keep on going. Keep up the fight. If Jessie Wheeler can help you stay positive and reach through to tell you that you are okay, that you are still loveable and your dreams are still attainable despite what you might think deep down inside, then she's done her job. And I've done mine.
Now I just need to keep listening to her myself, huh? And maybe someday Still the Water will get made.
In the meantime, here's a tune to brighten your day. Lemme hear ya! Bamp bamp bamp...!
P.S. FREE for the next five days on Amazon, my critically acclaimed short story from the novel of the same name -
P.P.S. Um, this one's FREE for five days as well...happy reading!